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Donatella De Pascale

Research Focus : Drug discovery from Environmental Source: small molecules for new drugs


Drug discovery from Environmental Source: small molecules for new drugs 

1. The research activity is mostly focused on bioprospecting from extreme environments, in particular from Arctic and Antarctic regions. Microorganisms inhabiting these regions represent an untapped reservoir of biodiversity, and their promising biotechnological potential, as source of novel compounds and biocatalysts, is yet to be fully exploited. Specifically, we aim at the identification of novel antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds. 
As for the antimicrobial compounds, we test our compounds towards a panel of Multi-Drug Resistance human pathogens (among the others: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumanii and Burkholderia cenocepacia), and parasite nematode using the nematodes Caenorhabtidis elegans as model system.

In addition, we aim at sampling and isolating novel microbial strains from extreme marine environments in order to improve cultivation methods from the uncultivable fraction of microorganisms.
This project is in the framework of the EU-funded initiative, the FP7-projectPharmaSea and H2020-MSCA-RISE: Ocean Medicine and H2020-MSCA- ETN-ITN: MarPipe.

2. Another aim is focused on the dissection of the virulence and pathogenicity determinants of human pathogens by using non-vertebrate host model, like Caenorhabtidis elegans. 
Finding novel virulence factors of these pathogens results in the identification of novel gene or target to use to fight the infection of these hazardous pathogens.

3. Other research activities are devoted to collect, analyse and describe the microbial biodiversity coming from cold biotopes. Our studies are also focused on antifreeze enzymes, with high potential for biotechnological applications. These enzymes are isolated from psychrophilic microorganisms from both genomic and metagenomic approaches. Biochemical facilities are also available, and therefore we are able to purify and characterize small antimicrobial peptides. The molecular adaptation to cold of these biocatalysts is also investigated.

Recent Publications

1. Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis produces methylamine, a volatile compound active against Burkholderia cepacia complex strains.
Sannino F, Parrilli E, Apuzzo GA, de Pascale D, Tedesco P, Maida I, Perrin E, Fondi M, Fani R, Marino G, Tutino ML.
Biotechnol. 2017 Mar 25;35:13-18. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2016.10.009.

2. Cryo-protective effect of an ice-binding protein derived from Antarctic bacteria.
Mangiagalli M, Bar-Dolev M, Tedesco P, Natalello A, Kaleda A, Brocca S, de Pascale D, Pucciarelli S, Miceli C, Bravslavsky I, Lotti M.
FEBS J. 2017 Jan;284(1):163-177. doi: 10.1111/febs.13965.

3. A novel synthetic medium and expression system for subzero growth and recombinant protein production in Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis TAC125.
Sannino F, Giuliani M, Salvatore U, Apuzzo GA, de Pascale D, Fani R, Fondi M, Marino G, Tutino ML, Parrilli E.
Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2017 Jan;101(2):725-734. doi: 10.1007/s00253-016-7942-5.

4. Draft Genome Sequences of the Antimicrobial Producers Pseudomonas sp. TAA207 and Pseudomonas sp. TAD18 Isolated from Antarctic Sediments. Presta L, Inzucchi I, Bosi E, Fondi M, Perrin E, Maida I, Miceli E, Tutino ML, Lo Giudice A, de Pascale D, Fani R.
Genome Announc. 2016 Jul 28;4(4). pii: e00728-16. doi: 10.1128/genomeA.00728-16.

5. Immune response of the Antarctic teleost Trematomus bernacchii to immunization with Psychrobacter sp. (TAD1).
Buonocore F, Bernini C, Coscia MR, Giacomelli S, de Pascale D, Randelli E, Stocchi V, Scapigliati G.
Fish Shellfish Immunol. 2016 Sep;56:192-8. doi: 10.1016/j.fsi.2016.07.009.

6. The antimicrobial potential of algicolous marine fungi for counteracting multidrug-resistant bacteria: phylogenetic diversity and chemical profiling. Gnavi G, Palma Esposito F, Festa C, Poli A, Tedesco P, Fani R, Monti MC, de Pascale D, D'Auria MV, Varese GC.
Res Microbiol. 2016 Jul-Aug;167(6):492-500. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2016.04.009.

7. Antimicrobial Activity of Monoramnholipids Produced by Bacterial Strains Isolated from the Ross Sea (Antarctica).
Tedesco P, Maida I, Palma Esposito F, Tortorella E, Subko K, Ezeofor CC, Zhang Y, Tabudravu J, Jaspars M, Fani R, de Pascale D.
Mar Drugs. 2016 Apr 26;14(5). pii: E83. doi: 10.3390/md14050083.

8. Biochemical characterization and structural analysis of a new cold-active and salt-tolerant esterase from the marine bacterium Thalassospira sp. De Santi C, Leiros HK, Di Scala A, de Pascale D, Altermark B, Willassen NP. Extremophiles. 2016 May;20(3):323-36. doi: 10.1007/s00792-016-0824-z.

9. Characterization of a cold-active and salt tolerant esterase identified by functional screening of Arctic metagenomic libraries.
De Santi C, Altermark B, Pierechod MM, Ambrosino L, de Pascale D, Willassen NP. BMC Biochem. 2016 Jan 19;17:1. doi: 10.1186/s12858-016-0057-x.

10. Bioprospecting around Arctic islands: Marine bacteria as rich source of biocatalysts. De Santi C, Altermark B, de Pascale D, Willassen NP. J Basic Microbiol. 2016 Mar;56(3):238-53. doi: 10.1002/jobm.201500505.

11. Investigating the Role of the Host Multidrug Resistance Associated Protein Transporter Family in Burkholderia cepacia Complex Pathogenicity Using a Caenorhabditis elegans Infection Model. Tedesco P, Visone M, Parrilli E, Tutino ML, Perrin E, Maida I, Fani R, Ballestriero F, Santos R, Pinilla C, Di Schiavi E, Tegos G, de Pascale D PLoS One. 2015 Nov 20;10(11):e0142883. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142883.


Pietro Tedesco  

PhD student 
Fortunato Palma Esposito 
Emiliana Tortorella    

Fellowship student
Maura Murra  



Angela Falco
Antonio Masino
Marianna Arullo
Nadia Di Martino Valentina Salvati
Giovanna Santaniello Carmine Buonocore Maurizio Capuozzo